Reviewed: October 11, 2008
Released: October 9, 2008
What do you get when you combine a cat, a dog, some Greek architecture resting high above an industrial metropolis, some evil black mist, and a giant mechanical squid? No, I’m not talking about the season opener for LOST…at least I don’t think I am. What I am talking about is Linger in Shadows, the latest downloadable “game” available on the PlayStation Store.
Welcome to the birth of a new genre. Linger in Shadows should not be confused with a traditional videogame despite the fact that it makes better use of the SIXAXIS controller than most other PS3 titles and even offers a handful of trophies. What can only be classified as Interactive Digital Art, Linger in Shadows is a 6:50 movie that you can either watch as any other downloadable movie, or, in an ingenious new interactive mode, you can choose to “linger” and explore the inner workings of this digital masterpiece.
Linger in Shadows is the creation of Plastic, one of the many groups who made up the demoscene from the 80' and 90’s. For those unfamiliar with the demoscene there is a nice history section included with Linger in Shadows. The demoscene came from an underground digital art culture that started more than 20 years ago. A “demo” is an audiovisual program created to demonstrate and push the limits of a machine through the devotion, creativity and originality of the demosceners who created the “demo”. Like games, “demos” went from being made by individuals to being made by groups. The demoscene has created some amazing pieces over the years. I was a huge fan of these “demos” back in the day and I still have a CD or two full of these inventive projects.
Long before hundreds and thousands of people got together to play HALO or QUAKE in giant LAN parties, thousands of people would assemble each year overseas for demo parties. Previously, demoscene productions were passive experiences. You turned it on, sat back and watched. The great thing that Plastic has done with Linger in Shadows was to make it an experience that you explore throughout. Look beyond the frame of what you see. Search for new things, experiment with the SIXAXIS, and you might be surprised by what you find! Sure you can watch it passively, but in order to get the full experience you have to look behind the curtain and discover the secrets of Linger in Shadows for yourself!
Its been a long time since I’ve viewed a demo or even visited the demo scene web pages, so Linger in Shadows took me by surprise, both that the demo scene was still active, and even more so that it had made the jump to a next-gen console. But it only makes sense. These demo programmers were exploiting the power of the PC well ahead of the people who actually manufactured them, and now they are tackling the most powerful gaming platform on the planet. Look out!
Linger in Shadows kicks off with some credits then we dive right into the action. I won’t go into details on what actually takes place for fear of spoiling any surprises, but if you are curious you can view the entire movie on YouTube or on Plastic’s homepage. Simply watching the movie is an engaging experience that shows off the power of the PS3 with stunning 1080p visuals and some sinister music, but it is only when you explore the movie in the Linger mode that you see the untapped potential of the Interactive Digital Art genre. In this mode you get to view short segments of the overall movie, then that segment is rewound and you can explore the segment, frame by frame if you will. As you go forward and back using the triggers a HUD will indicate when you can interact with the video by highlighting control icons along the top and bottom of the letterbox presentation.
You might be required to shake or twist the SIXAXIS controller or rapidly tap a button. You can also unlock the camera and pan around the scene using the motion of the SIXAXIS to steer the virtual camera. Your goal is to find the motion or input required to fill a blue progress meter at the top of the screen. Only when this bar is full will the movie advance to the next segment, and you get to do it all over again.
There are dozens of interactive objects within these movie segments. You might be able to rotate an object within the scene, toggle on a light to see something in the dark. In one scene you can actually turn on the eerie eyes of the mechanical squid then use the SIXAXIS to tilt his head to look around. You might be able to spin a floating dog, or cycle the particle effects of a strange black mist. There is a lot to do in each scene but usually only one specific movement or series of movements will advance the scene.
The visuals are quite stunning, featuring what appear to be real-time oil paintings in crisp 1080p detail combined with exquisite creature models, fur textures, and plenty of cool lighting and shadow effects. Everything is heavily stylized and despite the diversity of all the seemingly random content, it all blends together within the confines of the movie.
Complementing the eerie visuals is a soundtrack that will stir up equally disturbing emotions. At first the music is light with a fantasy element, but when things start to go wrong the score takes a twist to the dark side and never returns. While I wouldn’t listen to this music by itself, it works flawlessly in this medium.
Linger in Shadows is a $3 purchase on the PlayStation Store and even though you are essentially buying a 7-minute movie you are also buying a piece of videogame history. Linger in Shadows is to digital art as Wolfenstein 3D was to FPS. How many of you can say you were there at the birth of a new art form, and now you can purchase the proof that you were.
Linger in Shadows comes with a handful of trophies; some are easy to acquire while others will require you to play the movie numerous times and dig very deep into the inner workings of this project. I’ve played through Linger in Shadows at least a dozen times myself, and it has become required viewing/playing for anybody who visits. It’s easily the best $3 you can spend in the PlayStation Store and I highly recommend it to everyone.